Here’s how to create your own bespoke programme with the aim of having the best partnership with your horse in 2021 (Covid-permitting).
Just Do It January — is there something you’ve always wanted to do with your horse? In January, the days are still short and the weather’s unreliable, so use this as thinking time. What are your goals for 2020, and how are you going to achieve them? From getting back into eventing to trying TREC, plan how you’re going to make it work. Look into what’s involved, and perhaps team up with a buddy for motivation.
Fitness February — most of us are feeling a little off our game at this time of year. Start preparing for the year ahead by getting the pair of you back into exercise, whether that’s Pilates classes for you or groundwork for your horse.
Move It March — time to get back in the saddle! The days are getting longer and (hopefully) nicer, so it’s time to step the training up a bit. If your horse hasn’t been doing much over the winter, start gently with some hacking or groundwork.
Advance It April — step it up another notch. Create a varied exercise programme with flatwork, hacking and jumping or groundwork to increase fitness, and try to add another hour a week until you’re back in full work.
Maintain It May — you’ve started off strongly, now keep going! The season for a lot of disciplines is in full swing by now, so if you’re competing your horse needs to be fit enough. If you don’t compete, then getting your horse fitter means you’ll be ready to do longer rides in the summer.
No Jog June — don’t worry, we’re not advocating giving up running if that’s your thing! No Jog June is about targeting a bad equine habit, such as your horse always jogging on hacks, or barging out of the stable door before you’re ready. These may not seem much in themselves, but can be very irritating or even dangerous. Remember that some apparent bad habits can have physical causes, so do consult your vet if you’re not sure. Otherwise, make June the month when you resolve to turn your horse into an equine angel.
No Jiggle July — now it’s your turn! Identify one bad habit you have as a rider (can’t keep your hands still, always looking down, jiggling in the saddle, turning your toes out) and make July the month you really work on it and finally get on top of it. Invest in a set of lessons to help.
Ease Off August — it shouldn’t be all work and no play. Even if you’re still in the middle of the competition season, make time for long evening rides with friends, riding on the beach or taking a picnic out. It helps prevent your horse from becoming stale, and reminds you how much fun riding can be.
Savour It September — arguably the best month of the riding year! A lot of competitive seasons are starting to come to an end, so the pressure to keep at the top of your game is lessening a little. The weather is normally still nice, horses are still living out, there’s plenty of daylight – this is a month to enjoy.
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Opt In October — it can be hard to keep our enthusiasm going in October, with the days getting shorter. Keep yourself motivated by saying ‘yes’ to something new – an indoor clinic, a taster session of a new discipline or a group outing.
Knowledge November — we’re taking ‘no stirrups November’ and enriching it a little further. Feel free to still take those stirrups away, but why not keep a lookout for equestrian demos and clinics to attend to deepen your knowledge in your particular discipline or perhaps even a new one.
Downtime December — after all that, you and your horse are probably ready for a rest. Keep everything ticking over with some groundwork and weekend hacking, but other than that it’s hot chocolate and boxset season! And if your horse has been having a break, take care not to over do it during the Christmas holidays or else you could be setting yourself up for a January of rest and rehab.
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